AMARI: the African Mental Health Research Initiative

What's happening in AMARI?

ACES training course for THRiVE fellows in Uganda


Dr Chris Merritt, AMARI

In early December 2018, I travelled to Uganda to deliver a week of training to fellows of THRiVE Consortium – a DELTAS Africa project. The course took place at Makarere University in Kampala and some fellows travelled hundreds of kilometres across Uganda to attend.

The idea for running the training came when I met Prof Nelson Sewankambo, the Director of THRiVE Consortium, at the DELTAS Africa Annual General Meeting held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in July 2018. I spoke about the ACES course (Academic Competencies Enhancement Series), our career-development package in AMARI, and he invited me to Uganda to bring ACES to THRiVE Consortium.

On day one, we covered presentation skills – essential for disseminating your work at conferences, pitching for funding, teaching and even just letting colleagues know about your research. The morning of day two saw us tackling the subject of digital media – everything from briefing journalists to using social media to engage in research debate, digital publishing and open data. During the afternoon of day two, we looked at work-life balance. We were joined by two mid-level/senior faculty from Makarere who discussed their experiences and challenges of finding balance with busy research jobs alongside clinical work and family life.

Day three covered mentoring skills in detail, using role play exercises to practice mentoring conversations. This was important because – like many young researchers – THRiVE Consortium fellows are assigned mentors in their programme. In-depth practical training helps them to get the best out of those relationships. On day four we looked at teamwork, discussing personality traits and roles in teams, along with conflict management and some more role plays to practice this.

Our final day began with a career strategy workshop, encouraging fellows to think ahead and map their careers, paving the way for an action plan to take their research careers to the next level. The week ended with a mini research showcase on Friday afternoon, where several fellows presented their work to the group, using the skills from day one. I was blown away by the quality of the presentations and slides.

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The week was a fantastic opportunity to spread some of the skills that we have been learning in AMARI, and to build our relationships with other DELTAS Africa programmes. THRiVE Consortium has a focus on infectious diseases and physical health, with some fellows even researching livestock pathogens – which affect food security. It was really interesting for me to see these fellows – whose specialisms are very different to AMARI – benefitting from the same career development package.

AMARI is looking forward to more of these intra DELTAS Africa collaborations in 2019.

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